Howard Schaffer Remembers John Kenneth Galbraith

February 16, 2017: This essay on the redoubtable John Kenneth Galbraith starts a series of occasional pieces remembering American diplomats with whom I worked over the years on U.S. relations with South Asia. I’ll be looking mostly at the times I served at our embassies in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, some fifteen years in all. My focus will be on the character, aspirations, and activities of these diplomats rather than on the policies they advocated. I plan to write only about those who have passed away.

Galbraith, the Harvard University professor whom President John F. Kennedy appointed ambassador to India in 1961, was an iconic – and iconoclastic – figure in both the academic and diplomatic worlds. He is still recalled in India as one of the most effective envoys Washington ever sent to New Delhi.

Galbraith’s greatest accomplishment was his key role in organizing the U.S. response to the Sino-Indian border war in the high Himalayas in the fall of 1962, at a time when the leaders of the Kennedy administration were totally preoccupied with the Cuban missile crisis. The tactful and sympathetic manner in which Galbraith dealt – with minimal instructions from Washington – with a demoralized Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his government following the Chinese rout of Indian forces was a remarkable example of effective diplomacy. So were the initiatives Galbraith took in identifying and marshalling American military supplies that could be rushed to the Himalayan battleground. Few long-serving career ambassadors could have matched this “military operation led by a professor.” Galbraith deftly managed to reconcile India’s need for U.S. help with its passionate commitment to non-alignment.

I came to New Delhi in July 1961 as a fairly junior officer assigned to the embassy economic section. Galbraith had arrived a few months earlier, in April, succeeding Ellsworth Bunker, one of the most gifted American diplomats of the Cold War years.  He remained in New Delhi until July 1963, then returned to his endowed chair at Harvard. My contacts with him were limited until the Chinese invasion, when I was assigned to a newly established embassy section designed to monitor the military supplies then beginning to flow in from the United States and elsewhere. But I remained distantly removed from his very limited inner circle.

An Aloof Ambassador

Unlike some other U.S. ambassadors to India  such as Chester Bowles, who had the job in the early 1950s and then as Galbraith’s successor in the 1960s, Galbraith had no particular interest in junior officers or, for that matter, in most embassy staffers of whatever rank.  I’m sure he felt he had better things to do with his time than to waste it on them. He was similarly indifferent to his colleagues in the New Delhi diplomatic corps, few of whom in his view knew much about India, had anything useful or amusing to tell him, or served edible meals at their embassy residences. It was only much later, when I had retired from the Foreign Service and was writing biographies of Ambassadors Bowles and Bunker, that I enjoyed any sustained personal contact with him. He proved quite supportive in these literary and academic efforts. I used to tell him that I was the last survivor of “Galbraith Raj.” He obviously enjoyed these references to the days when he ran the embassy and was a major figure both in devising and implementing Washington’s India policy and in influencing –or trying to influence — the broader conduct of U.S. foreign affairs.

A gaunt six foot nine, Galbraith was a formidable, hardly welcoming figure. In his dealings with his staff he seemed devoid of the bonhomie, feigned or real, that many diplomats display. In A Life in Our Times he poked fun at the relaxed work ethic of his colleagues in the New Delhi ambassadorial set. He maintained that the daily tasks of a typical ambassador could be completed in a couple of hours. He disdained as a waste of time the traditional national day celebrations long considered an inevitable part of an ambassador’s life. He claimed he rarely learned anything at these functions and often found reasons to avoid them.  Only the British and Canadian high commissioners (the equivalent of ambassadors in Commonwealth diplomatic parlance) earned his favor and respect.


By the time he came to New Delhi as ambassador the Canadian-born Galbraith had become something of an international celebrity as a provocative liberal economist and writer. Unlike many of his contemporaries in the practice and propagation of the dismal science, he could fashion lively prose that not only made sense to fellow professional economists but could also stimulate and even amuse lay readers. Time Inc. publisher Henry R. Luce reportedly claimed that it was he who had taught Galbraith to write — when Galbraith worked for him as a Fortune Magazine editor in the 1930s. This, the conservative Luce is said to have lamented, proved unfortunate.

The Crucial Relationship with Nehru

Some of Galbraith’s prolific output was well known in India. His most influential and widely read work there – as in the United States — was The Affluent Society, a best-seller published in 1958.  When Galbraith visited New Delhi as a private citizen the following year, he and Nehru discussed the book, which the prime minister had just gone through (and not altogether approved of).

The two men’s shared intellectual interests were an important element in their relationship. Galbraith cultivated this, treating the prime minister as a fellow intellectual in a way that evidently pleased Nehru. Galbraith had spent extensive time in India in the 1950s, and his expertise in economic and, specifically, agricultural matters was a plus for him at a time when the prime minister and his countrymen were preoccupied with their effort to improve the country’s living standards. So was Galbraith’s often ironic, wry way of viewing and commenting on events, which Nehru seemed to enjoy and share.

Galbraith’s warm ties with Nehru were of course a crucial element in his efforts to promote U.S. interests – and sell his own ideas – in India. Until the border war with China sharply eroded his power, the prime minister was the unchallenged architect and craftsman of Indian foreign policy. American ambassadors – and the more consequential of their New Delhi-based foreign colleagues – tried hard to win Nehru’s good will and approval. (Nehru also served as minister of external affairs during the seventeen years he was prime minister.) Some of Galbraith’s predecessors in New Delhi, most notably Bunker and Bowles, had been quite successful in gaining Nehru’s respect. But for others, dealing with the prime minister could be a difficult task. The distinguished senior career diplomat Loy Henderson, U.S. ambassador from 1951 to 1954, was said by his biographer H.W. Brands to have found Nehru “the most charming man he ever despised.”

Galbraith enjoyed easy access to the prime minister, whom he met with a frequency that must have been the envy of other diplomats in New Delhi. Their conversations covered issues ranging from bilateral matters to regional and global controversies. During this time the Indians were playing a key role in seeking to resolve conflicts in Laos and elsewhere in Indo-China, and the two men gave Southeast Asia special attention. They also dealt extensively with the West’s confrontation with the Soviet Union over Berlin. Not surprisingly, economic issues – both those directly related to U.S.-Indian relations and other broader global ones – also figured importantly on their agenda. Galbraith had the knack of drawing Nehru out on these matters and at times the two men found that they could be very candid with one another. These exchanges with Nehru figured importantly in the letters Galbraith wrote to Kennedy every month or so.

Cultivating the Kennedy White House

The other major plus that Galbraith enjoyed was his relationship with John F. Kennedy. Galbraith had become an informal economic adviser and tutor to JFK in the run-up to Kennedy’s 1960 bid for the presidency, a natural role for a liberal economist based in Kennedy’s home state. He continued to provide Kennedy advice on economic and financial matters as JFK prepared to take office after his narrow election win and in later meetings when he visited Washington as ambassador. Some Kennedy-watchers expected that JFK would offer Galbraith a major Washington economic job in his administration. Galbraith, for his part, toyed with a bid for a U.S. Senate seat from Massachusetts, he hoped with Kennedy’s backing. But he also quietly passed word to Kennedy of his interest in the New Delhi embassy – and got the job. According to Galbraith, “Kennedy…was pleased to have me in his administration but at a suitable distance such as India. This saved him from a too close identification with my now extensively articulated economic views.”

Although Galbraith may at times have worried that he had prompted JFK to send him into semi-exile, he was unrelenting in his efforts to demonstrate to the Indians in general and to Nehru in particular how close he was to the Kennedy White House. Probably even more than others, Indians judge the effectiveness of U.S. ambassadors by the access these envoys have to the Washington power structure. They assume that these ambassador will use their influence to support or at least to win greater understanding for India’s views and aspirations. And with some notable exceptions this has usually has been so, sometimes to an egregious degree.

Galbraith was relentless in efforts to advertise his Washington clout to the Indians, and, more importantly, to exercise his influence there to promote the policies he favored. He considered himself the Kennedy administration’s key policymaker on India. He disliked and disdained Secretary of State Dean Rusk. In Galbraith’s view, Rusk was a cold warrior overly influenced by military considerations in devising and managing foreign policy. For Galbraith, the secretary of state was a post-election Johnny-come-lately to the Kennedy camp. (Rusk, who had served in the State Department during the Truman administration, had been head of the non-partisan Rockefeller Foundation in 1960 and did not take part in the presidential campaign.) I recall the obviously uneasy personal chemistry between the two men when they appeared together at embassy functions during Rusk’s visits to India.

Galbraith had even greater disdain for Phillips Talbot, the assistant secretary of state for Near East and South Asian affairs. “Dealing with [Talbot],” he cruelly wrote, “is like playing badminton with a marshmallow – you don’t know whether he is going to stick or bounce.”

Although there were State Department officers whom he admired, or at least tolerated, Galbraith had a low opinion of Foggy Bottom as a whole. In Ambassador’s Journal, his diary of his New Delhi years, he wrote, “it is hard in this job not to develop a morbid dislike for the State Department. It is remote, mindless, petty, and, above all, pompous, overbearing and late.” (Some of these harsh judgments were no doubt reciprocated in spades by State Department officials.) He also thought it was too large and too hobbled by meaningless meetings and procedures. Galbraith cleverly parodied the ways of the Department, as he saw them, in a nasty little novel, The Triumph, published in 1968. Galbraith dedicated the book to Averell Harriman, presumably because he thought that the Old Crocodile shared his low views of the people both of them had to deal with at Foggy Bottom

Galbraith made clear to both Rusk and Talbot that he intended to deal directly with Kennedy and senior White House staffers headed by a fellow academic on leave from Harvard, McGeorge Bundy, the president’s national security adviser. He continued to do so throughout his ambassadorial term.  He let it be known that he intended to send important policy messages directly to the White House — some of them apparently by-passing the State Department — in the expectation that they would be read sympathetically by the president. As noted, he also sent frequent letters to JFK. These covered a wide range of issues, not necessarily India- or even foreign policy related. Economic issues figured importantly: Galbraith was obviously keen to continue his role of economic adviser, if at some distance.

He also arranged to visit Washington much more often than most ambassadors can or do – at least until the crisis in Sino-Indian relations in the fall of 1962 led him to hunker down in India. These trips home gave him the opportunity not only to exert greater influence on the administration’s South Asia policy but also to get caught up on its approach to other key global issues (not to speak of picking up political and personal gossip). Galbraith also saw the visits as opportunities to get involved again in economic policymaking,

Jacqueline Kennedy’s Trip to India

Some of the messages Galbraith directed to the White House were intended for First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s eyes as well as the president’s. Like so many in those early New Frontier “Camelot” days, Galbraith found Mrs. Kennedy charming, interesting, and amusing. He seems to have targeted her early on as an ally in his effort to win greater, more positive Washington attention to India (and to himself).

Galbraith worked hard to promote an Indian visit by the first lady. He saw such a tour– and his role in masterminding it – not only as the kind of glittering occasion involving important and attractive people that he so much enjoyed but also as impressive evidence of his close ties with the presidential family. And he no doubt recognized that Nehru shared his eye for attractive women. Much of the staging of what was widely dubbed a “royal tour” was designed to show the Indians that the ambassador was a figure to be reckoned with because he could claim with good evidence that he had full and meaningful access to the Kennedy White House.

As a kind of ambassadorial impresario and tour guide, Galbraith involved himself with great gusto in every detail of the first lady’s program. Under his direction, the preparations for the visit became top priority for embassy staff. Other diplomatic activities were shunted into second place or ignored for months. Officer were dispatched far and wide across India scouting sites that Mrs. Kennedy might wish to visit and looking for photogenic places appropriate for public relations purposes. Those chosen reflected much more the glamor of old princely India than they did U.S.-assisted efforts to foster economic development. Dancing with maharajas and going up mountains to medieval palaces on the canopied backs of richly adorned elephants, not inspection of hydroelectric plants, were the featured attractions.

The tour was a major public relations success and showed the United States in a very attractive light. From the moment she arrived wearing a shocking pink suit – appropriate, wags said, for a visit to a shocking pink country – Mrs. Kennedy was a great hit with the Indian public. She personified the youthful vigor of American leadership at a time when Nehru and many of his government colleagues who had fought for independence from Britain were tired and aging. And the trip was wonderfully good for Galbraith’s standing both with the White House and the Indian political class.  But whether it had any actual significant impact on bilateral relations is unclear – as it almost always is when such ceremonial extravaganzas are staged.

A Primer for Ambassadors

In A Life in Our Times, Galbraith spelled out rules that ambassadors could usefully follow to effectively carry out their (to him) comparatively light responsibilities.  Not surprisingly in light of what I’ve just written, the first of these has to do with an envoy’s relations with the White House: “either have the president behind you or cultivate that impression.” Galbraith advised ambassadors to use the press “in a wholly forthright way” since officials with good access to the media are respected and even feared. He gave high priority to envoys’ use of the printed word to make their positions widely and persuasively known throughout relevant parts of their governments. “The ability to write so as to command attention is one of the most valuable of bureaucratic weapons,” he observed.

Galbraith advised ambassadors to cultivate an outward air of assurance even when they could not be certain of the outcome of the policies they were recommending. They should adopt, where appropriate, “a modest aspect of menace.”  “Many public officials,” he cynically noted, “will go against their convictions to avoid a fight. And some are conveniently lacking in conviction.”

As ambassador, Galbraith generally followed these self-ordained precepts. He made good use of a talented corps of India-based American media representatives, in his time far more numerous than they are nowadays, to get his positions known to foreign policy opinion makers at home. His longtime press attaché, Barry Zorthian, was surely one of the embassy’s most resourceful, overworked, and successful officers. Galbraith also cultivated the sizeable, well-informed, and resourceful Indian press. Newspapers gave him extensive coverage, often on their front pages, and conveyed to the Indian political class Kennedy administration positions as he interpreted them.

Making Life Hazardous for the Embassy Staff

But Galbraith went well beyond his mild admonition to ambassadors to cultivate an “outward air of assurance” and “adopt, when appropriate, a modest aspect of menace.” In a May 1961 letter to Kennedy, he professed his satisfaction with the political, economic, and administrative staff of the embassy. He distinguished these officers from those in the information and economic development sections, who did not meet his standards.

These apparently acceptable staffers soon found, however, that Galbraith did not react well to opinions that differed from his own. Contesting his positons might be dangerous and the menace dissenters faced by persisting in their views could be more than modest. Staffers who disagreed with him were likely to be ignored or moved elsewhere.

An estimated dozen or so officers were transferred out of the embassy at Galbraith’s insistence. I recall asking a more senior colleague whether this experience damaged the career prospects of the defenestrated. “Getting kicked out of Embassy New Delhi by John Kenneth Galbraith,” he replied, “was like being declared persona non grata at a post in an Iron Curtain country. Nobody blames you for it, but they wonder if somehow you couldn’t have avoided it.”

Embassy officers of course recognized the peril of disagreeing with Galbraith and often modified their views or kept these to themselves. The unhappy result was that the ambassador was not as well served by his talented staff as he could have been had he been more tolerant of opposing views and taken these into account when he formulated his policy recommendations. (The State Department did not establish its dissent channel until 1973, a decade later. I doubt that many officers at Galbraith’s embassy would have risked using it.)

Galbraith’s tough attitude toward dissent and other evidence of lèse majesté was made even more menacing by his deputy chief of mission, Benson E. “Lane” Timmons. In my experience, DCMs range between those who serve as a buffer between harsh ambassadors and the embassy staff and those who act as ambassadors’ megaphones. Timmons fell notoriously into the megaphone category. “Galbraith knocked you down; Timmons trampled on you,” unhappy embassy staffers complained. A confirmed workaholic known to put in twenty-hour days, Timmons defined his job description as dealing directly with Galbraith on a wide range of policy issues, assuring the effective operation of the machinery of the embassy, and enforcing staff discipline. He also made certain that all communications facilities except the special ones used by CIA were totally under the ambassador’s control. (Galbraith very sensibly regarded this as crucial to his running the embassy. Unwanted views and information should not reach Washington, at least not in time to do any harm. In this day of e-mails and secure telephones such total ambassadorial control is no longer feasible.)

India’s rich civilization interested Timmons not at all, It was only a few weeks before he completed his assignment as DCM that he found time to visit the Taj Mahal, only 125 miles from New Delhi. Timmons’s constant overwork eventually led to his physical collapse at the height of the Sino-Indian War. With Galbraith’s support, he later went on to become ambassador to Haiti.

By contrast, the ambassador and his wife Kitty developed a lively and well-informed interest in Indian art, architecture, and other aspects of the country’s culture. Galbraith loved to explore Indian antiquities, consort with Indian artists, and collect paintings and other art objects. Traveling widely around the country, the Galbraiths met a wide variety of interesting, attractive, and talented Indians whose backgrounds and views often had only limited relevance to the immediate issues the ambassador dealt with as American envoy.  His well-publicized travels, often to out of the way places, helped make him one of the best known foreigners in India during his diplomatic years there.

The Galbraiths also entertained large numbers of important Indians, fellow diplomats, and visiting foreigners, especially after they moved into the imposing if somewhat impractical ambassadorial residence next to the chancery itself. Galbraith had many Indian friends and admirers, not least fellow economists and political heavyweights. Junior embassy officers and their wives were invited to some of the ambassador’s representational functions to help out — under Timmons’ watchful eye. Woe to the officer found talking to an embassy colleague, not to an Indian guest. The conversation could be outstanding. The food rarely was.

Galbraith as Communicator

Galbraith was not a particular effective public speaker.  He was much more effective with the printed word and observed his own core precept about its importance. He wrote in a lively, witty, often irreverent style that assured him an attentive readership, not least in the Kennedy White House. He rejoiced in subtle, often ironic phrases and the wry use of double negatives. Some of his messages became virtual collectors’ items.

Among my favorites were cables he wrote to President Kennedy during the India-Pakistan negotiations over Kashmir that the two countries carried out at U.S. and British behest in late 1962 and early 1963. Kennedy, who had been following the talks in unusual detail, had sent a long series of personal messages to Nehru and Pakistani leader Ayub Khan urging forward movement and suggesting ways this could be accomplished. Galbraith questioned the effectiveness of this approach and told Kennedy so. “Letters from the president,” he cabled, “have been issued like Confederate currency and with similar results.” He observed in another message that he and his staff were not participating in the bilateral India-Pakistan discussions but haunted the negotiation sites “like the ghost of Banquo.” Pessimistic about the possibility of a division of Kashmir that would be acceptable to both sides, he predicted that the proposed Indian line would run through Damascus and the Pakistani line just short of Tokyo.

In seeking to liven up dull official prose in a way that draws readers’ attention and favor, imaginative drafting officers will occasionally go too far in their search for the clever and titillating. Readers will be amused, but the point the writer is trying to make may be obscured or even lost. Galbraith was not immune to this temptation.

I recall one message in which the ambassador complained forcefully to Washington about U.S. non-project economic assistance. As many others did then and do now, Galbraith argued that aid of this sort – typically general budgetary support unconnected with any specific, visible development project – went unnoticed and unacknowledged by the Indian public. Hence it won the United States no credit. Non-project aid, he inveighed, is like the twenty dollar bill a Smith College girl finds in her Proust the morning after an assignation.

I considered this a very clever piece of writing and expected it might have some impact in Washington. And it may have. But Galbraith’s allusion to Proust proved too obscure for at least some members of his staff.  Inquiring on behalf of the Defense Attaché’s Office, a young Air Force lieutenant asked me plaintively, “what is a PROWST?” Somewhat taken aback, I explained to him that Marcel Proust, pronounced PROOST, was a 19th century French writer, etc., etc. He seemed relieved to receive this elucidation. One of my colleagues chided me for coming up with the wrong answer. What you should have told the kid, he declared, was “Fullerton, you’ve been going out with girls all these years and you don’t know what a Proust is?”

I recall telling this story to Galbraith many years later. He was not amused.

Policy Goals and Achievements

As I suggested at the beginning of this posting, I don’t intend to analyze in any detail the specific roles my subjects played in dealing with U.S policy toward South Asia during their diplomatic tenures there. These have been explored at length elsewhere. What I’ll look at briefly in this final section are the more important concepts and policy goals that I believe most motivated Galbraith during his ambassadorial tenure and how successful he was in achieving them.

The most compelling – and obvious –was his view that India was a country very important to U.S. interests to which Washington had paid insufficient attention. He wanted the Kennedy administration to do what it could to improve bilateral ties and to cooperate where feasible with India on international issues. He shared this positive view of India’s role with most (though not all) of the other career diplomats and political appointees assigned as U.S. ambassadors to India over the years and of course with President Kennedy. He would not have asked Kennedy for the job if he had felt otherwise.

But I think that Galbraith, unlike Chester Bowles who succeeded him, understood the limits of the bilateral relationship. As Eisenhower had, he recognized that India would be too expensive a military ally. Nor did he conceive it as an informal partner in the global struggle against Communism. He welcomed India’s playing an active international role and encouraged Nehru’s helpful involvement in resolving or at least calming Cold War confrontations in Southeast Asia and Africa. But he did not agree with the idea, attractive to some in the wake of the Sino-Indian border war, that India would be willing to take part in military action against the Chinese Communists other than in the Himalayas.

Galbraith had no use for the security ties with Pakistan that had bedeviled Washington’s relations with India since the early 1950s. He was unsympathetic to Ayub Khan’s authoritarian military regime and critical of those in the Kennedy administration, especially Rusk, who looked kindly on it. He did not believe that the Kashmir issue could be resolved except by maintaining the territorial status quo and making porous the line dividing the Indian and Pakistani-held parts of the disputed state. (This “non-territorial” settlement won some favor in the early 2000s from Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and others as part of a broader scheme that would also include shared institutions in which representatives from the Indian- and Pakistani-controlled parts of the state would participate. The Indian government never accepted it.)

Before he came to India as ambassador, Galbraith, like some other important American economists, became seriously interested in prospects for Indian economic development and how the United States could best assist India’s own efforts to promote this. The Eisenhower administration had instituted a sizeable economic assistance program for India, intended as a way of countering the threat posed by the more flexible and effective policies Moscow had adopted toward key Third World countries following Stalin’s death in 1953. Kennedy was himself very sympathetic to India, and when he became president Washington vastly expanded its development aid to New Delhi.

Galbraith sought ways to make the most effective use of this stepped-up aid and to give the assistance the broad publicity that would make clear to the Indian public who it was that was providing it. In this effort he worked closely with AID Mission Director C. Tyler Wood — an old, well-connected professional in the economic assistance field who was one of the few officers on his staff he seemed to have truly respected.

Galbraith’s efforts to publicize U. S. support for Indian economic development reached its climax in October 1962 when he engaged a special train to take himself, Kitty, and a horde of publicists, Indian officials, and embassy staffers on a week-long trip across ten Indian states to see for themselves the broad variety of American assisted projects. Galbraith seemed to be having the time of his life as the conductor of this “AID Train.”

The high point of the journey was a visit to a high dam under construction at Nagarjuna Sagar in South India. This dam, eventually 490 feet tall, was reaching the final phase of its construction when Galbraith and his fellow AID Train passengers reached it. The ambassador promptly put on his head a bag of wet cement and joined the laborers trundling upward with similar loads toward the dam’s summit. Photos of this feat were widely front-paged, exactly of course what Galbraith wanted.

As a specialist in agricultural economics, Galbraith took a great interest in agricultural education. He promoted U.S. support for the growing number of agricultural training institutes India was establishing and took special pleasure in visiting them. He was no advocate of the “license-permit-quota raj” system that the Nehru government had made its basic approach to managing the Indian economy. He urged reforms in the system but did not seriously challenge it or urge the Indians to scrap it.

Ironically, his most ardent effort to bring about U.S. support for Indian economic development was his well-publicized, ultimately unsuccessful campaign to obtain funding for a massive public sector steel mill at Bokaro in eastern India.  Congressional opposition to such large-scale U.S.  government backing for a major public enterprise in India’s mixed industrial economy ultimately doomed his hopes. The Indians then turned to the Soviets, who built the mill — to American consternation.

The End of Galbraith Raj.

By that time Galbraith had returned to Cambridge and U.S.-Indian relations, at their height when he left New Delhi in July 1963, were again sliding downward. The goodwill prompted by American support for India in the China conflict was fading. The Indians felt uneasy and crowded by their greater dependence on the United States and the consequent weakening of their traditional non-alignment policy. In Washington the Kennedy administration was still undecided about the kind of relationship it wanted with India and the role it thought India could play in advancing American interests.

The brief heyday of U.S,-Indian ties that Galbraith had presided over was soon over. Fortunately for him it would be his successor Chester Bowles, not he, who would have to deal with the new situation.

Bibliographic Note

Many volumes have been written about the history of U.S. relations with South Asia, of course, and the flow will no doubt continue. In my judgement, the best studies dealing with the period I’ll be covering are still Dennis Kux’s two seminal works, Estranged Democracies: India and the United States 1941-1991, and Disenchanted Allies: Pakistan and the United States 1947-2000. For a discussion in depth of the Kashmir issue, which repeatedly perplexed U.S. South Asia policymakers during this time, take a look at my own book, The Limits of Influence, America’s Role in Kashmir.  Galbraith himself has written extensively about his years in India. During his assignment, he kept a dairy, published in 1969 as Ambassador’s Journal. He also dealt with that period in a couple of chapters of his autobiography, A Life in Our Times.


Howard Schaffer


3 Replies to “Howard Schaffer Remembers John Kenneth Galbraith”

  1. Good essay, but it does not capture the interest Galbraith had in meeting other ambassadors, who he found interesting, or was this outside of your involvement, or is this not accurate given your perspective

    The point you make about how difficult it was working with Galbraith is valuable, a mention that he was an agricultural economist by training, which got him involved with ag ec programs in India is relevant.

  2. I found your piece on Galbraith in india very informative, as well as interestingly — at times drolly — written. You brief reference to McGeorge Bundy put me in mind of Uncle Jerrigh. who, I have reason to believe, had some kind of connection with him at Harvard. Through a lecture series here in Pasadena, I became acquainted with a professor emeritus from Occidental College who, while a graduate student at Harvard, had worked on an educational project with our famous uncle. Afterwards, the young man was apparently offered some kind of a position with George McBundy. The opportunity was gratefully declined, however, and the grad student, now a retired professor, went on to pursue his academic career as a historian specializing In Russia. Just a bit of trivia. Thanks for sending this on. Cheers!


  3. Former Counselor for Scientific Affairs, US Embassy new Delhi 200-2005
    Currently Chief Scientist, Nuclear Security R&D, national Nuclear Security Administration


    Great piece..

    A couple of issues perhaps described elsewhere, but worth repeating..

    * Two aeroplanes, a DC-3 and a Convair 440, hangared at Safdarjang Airport, literally around the corner from the Embassy were very effective force multipliers during his tenure. I believe he demanded the aircraft as a precondition to take the job.

    * Lore has it that JKG and Nehru repaired to the twin u-r-n-l stall in the Roosevelt House restroom when they needed to discuss something strategic and private. At least this is the lore I heard repairing to that very same stalls when nature called during diplomatic receptions.

    * Jackie Kennedy fell in love with the Edward Durrel Stone architecture of the Chancery. She had the architecture reproduced for the JFK Center for the Performing arts in memory of her husband.

    *You make no mention of the S&T and nuclear relationship. What was JKG’s relationship with scientists? Where was it at at that time?

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